German lawmakers slam Scholz and Merkel over Wirecard – draft report
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has been criticized by lawmakers for failing to oversee Wirecard, according to a draft report of a public inquiry into Germany’s biggest post-war fraud scandal.
The report from opposition lawmakers, after a month’s multi-party investigation, also said Chancellor Angela Merkel was naïve about Wirecard’s lobbying efforts.
The criticism echoes public comments by lawmakers since the inquiry began, but the 675-page draft revives the topic just months before the federal election to pick Merkel’s successor. Scholz is among those vying for the post.
“Olaf Scholz, as finance minister, bears political responsibility for the failure of BaFin,” the report said, referring to the country’s financial regulator who is part of the ministry.
The finance ministry and chancellery did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Scholz has denied blame for the failure and has since reorganized BaFin’s powers and installed new management.
Wirecard, founded in 1999, began processing payments for gambling and pornography sites before becoming a fintech star and a member of the DAX bluechip index.
He ended up filing for insolvency in June last year, owing nearly $ 4 billion to his creditors, after revealing a € 1.9 billion hole in his accounts which he said its auditor EY, was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.
Lawmakers said in their report that the Wirecard fiasco was more than an accounting scandal. It was a “failure of collective surveillance”, with BaFin, prosecutors, lobbyists and others playing a role.
The report says Scholz and his ministry that oversees BaFin looked for reasons not to investigate Wirecard as concerns about the company arose, rather than taking action.
German officials investigated journalists and other critics of the company instead of Wirecard executives, and they helped Wirecard grow in China even as questions arose about its business practices, the report notes.
Ahead of a state visit to China in September 2019, Merkel met with a former German economy minister who lobbied on behalf of Wirecard.
The Chancellor was “too naive” in her interaction with the minister, who “succeeded in promoting to the Chancellor a case in which he had an undisclosed economic interest”, according to the report.
Merkel in April dismissed criticism of her lobbying for Wirecard in China, telling lawmakers she had no reason to suspect the company of criminality as she sought to help it do business there. Read more
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